Friday, 15 January 2016

Interview - Valerie Traore

Valerie Traore
Executive Director, NIYEL

Q: What is your understanding of policy impact?

It depends if we are talking about the impact of the policy itself, or the process of impacting policy making. Assuming we are referring to the latter, there are two levels of policy impact. The first is being able to influence the process of policy making at different stages, from agenda setting, to policy formulation, adoption or review. The second, often more challenging, is ensuring that existing policies are actually implemented.

Q: According to you, what do you think could be the parameters to measure policy impact?

Measuring policy impact begins with understanding the baseline. Do policies exist? If yes, are they adequate, inclusive, and realistic and do they uphold human rights? If policies do not exist, what are the barriers and at what levels should they be?

The second element of measuring policy impact, is to understand where should we seek impact of the policies we are pushing for. Is it at the family level that the policy should have an impact (such as with domestic violence or access to education), at the community level, the district or national level, regional (such as in trade and migration) or global level (as in climate change or illicit financial flow).

The third element to consider is the dimension of change that the policy is going to affect. An education policy for example has implications on the economy, social relations, food security, governance, just to name a few dimensions that are relevant at each level of impact.

Finally, assessing policy impact is also looking at the actors with the mandate to effect the change we are looking for. Being able to assess the small shifts in the balance of power, such as the language a minister uses in favour of a certain policy, the championing by an MP, or the increased participation of community members in discussions on the issue allows for monitoring and evaluation of policy impact.

Once we start looking at these three parameters of policy impact and map out indicators based on these, measuring policy impact becomes a lot more concrete.

Q: Based on your interactions with various Think Tanks, what are the innovative examples you have observed in institutions making policy impact?

There are a range of approaches that Think Tanks use and how innovative they are depends on the context and what has been used before within that context. Reaching out to religious leaders with research findings and bringing them on board as advocates of an issue is one approach. Another widely used tool is scorecards, which tend to play on the competitive nature of districts or even states and motivates action.

Q: In your opinion, does the nature of policy impact change from organisation to organisation/region to region?

I don’t think the nature of impact changes from organisation to organisation or region to region. I think the process by which one impacts policy varies greatly. Every policy process aims at having a specific impact and that is where we should focus. The process of influencing policy in order to have impact does vary depending on the specific nature and mandate of the Think Tank, the issue, the target, the socio-political context, and the timing just to cite a few factors.

Q: In the world of Think Tanks, why is effective communication important to policy impact?

In the world of Think Tanks, effective communication is not just important, it is crucial to their effectiveness. Most Think Tanks exist to provide research and solutions to development challenges. The recommendations they offer are meant to serve policy making or practice changes, but without those recommendations reaching the desired targets through communication, they are obsolete.

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